How wrong. And how sad.

Nancy Bailey, a veteran special education teacher and noted author explains, in this excerpted article, how we came to hear that statement and why it is so wrong. And so sad.

NCLB was a bi-partisan bill signed into law in 2002 during the Bush administration’s push for school reform.

We now recognize how punitive the bill was, its troubling use of one-size-fits-all standardized testing to demonize and close public schools, the punitive AYP and “highly qualified” teacher credentialing changes, the unrealistic predictions that all children would be proficient in reading by 2014, and the push for unproven charters and choice.

NCLB also created terrible changes when it came to reading instruction, and the impacts are still felt today by children across the country.

Many parents and educators continue to embrace the recommendations by the same individuals who were connected to failed NCLB policy. They subscribe to harmful ideology that claims children must read early, preferably in kindergarten, or they are failures, and that teachers and their education schools don’t know the right way or the “science” to teach reading.

However, teaching reading in kindergarten is developmentally inappropriate! We have monumental research by early childhood developmental researchers that goes back years. We know what is developmentally important to teach at what times.

As far as learning to read goes, language develops from the moment a child is born, and there are many wonderful ways to promote the joy of reading.

Some children easily acquire reading skills without formal phonics instruction. They are curious about words and are able to sound letters out as they listen to and enjoy picture books. They may read well before they start school.Other children learn a little later. And some with disabilities may need extra assistance with a formal phonics program.

Repeatedly testing young children to find out how they read at such an early age would be better spent reading out loud lovely, funny, engaging picture books, and letting children develop their language skills through play!

First grade formal reading might include a combination of sounding out words and reading simple texts, but the school curriculum should be well-rounded, including the arts, science, social studies and other subjects that grab a child’s interest.

By the end of first grade if a child is not interested in reading, can’t remember the alphabet, or rhyme, and other developmental milestones they may need extra help. But even then, a child might be a little slower to read.

Early childhood specialists like those at Defending the Early Years (DEY) and the Alliance for Childhood, recognize this and have written a number of reports telling about the dangers of forcing children to read in kindergarten. My post “Setting Children Up to Hate Reading” has been my most popular blog post.

Race to the Top and Common Core State Standards continued to promote this faulty thinking surrounding NCLB. Common Core State Standards are also developmentally inappropriate for young children. See: “A Tough Critique of Common Core On Early Childhood Education,” Valerie Strauss the Answer Sheet.   

The societal shift in the belief that children must read by kindergarten, or they are destined to fail, is forced and misguided.

When children don’t read well by kindergarten, parents panic and believe something is wrong and their child needs remediation.

So they push children harder! This creates a Catch-22 scenario. Children sense something’s wrong. Reading becomes unenjoyable and something to fear.

All of this takes place before a child sees the inside of a first grade classroom!

Two strategies that parents consider to cope with kindergarten being the new first grade are:

  •  Delaying kindergarten a year so the child is older and developmentally ready to read when that child gets to kindergarten.
  • Repeating kindergarten. This makes kindergarten more developmentally appropriate for the child in the second year, but retention can be socially defeating for a child.

The better solution, the only developmentally appropriate one, is:

Bring back kindergarten! Quit repetitively testing children! Get those play kitchens and sand tables out of the closet! Don’t only say that kindergarten shouldn’t be the new first grade! Bring back kindergarten!


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